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October 6, 2013

To never be a ‘Newtown,’ Murray schools ‘beef up’ security

More police, anonymous hotline added

CHATSWORTH — It’s been a little over a year since a Mountain Creek Academy student took a shotgun to school on Sept. 11, but broaching the subject still results in uncomfortable faces on some Murray County Schools students.

North Murray High School student A.J. Sampson said he still wonders what would have happened if that student, now expelled, hadn’t been arrested on a bus outside of Bagley Middle school.

“Who knows?” Sampson said. “If it hadn’t been handled quickly, you could have had Columbine, Newtown and Chatsworth on all the same level. No one ever thinks a shooting will happen to them.”

The Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings in December 2012, in which 20 students and six staff members were killed, is precisely why Murray County school officials are “beefing up” security, said Administrative Services Director Mike Tuck.

Several new policies, including an anonymous hotline, and new school resource officers, or SROs, were put in place at the start of the school year.

“When the events happened in Connecticut during December of last year school leaders got together,” Tuck said. “Me and some administrators and other folks in leadership talked about what we could do to best spend our limited dollars on creating the safest environment possible.”

The incident with the Mountain Creek student didn’t “directly” impact the decision to increase security, Tuck said, but did have an indirect impact on the discussion.

SROs are provided by the Murray County Sheriff’s Office, Tuck said. Last year, the school system spent $124,489 on four officers, according to information provided by the school system. This year, it is spending $181,511 on 13 officers, finding savings, Tuck said, by being “creative.”

“Last year we made an agreement with the sheriff’s office to do a 75/25 percent split,” Tuck said.” So we paid for 75 percent of everything: salaries, benefits, supplies, whatever expense was attributed to that officer.

“This year, we couldn’t afford that. We worked something out with the sheriff’s office to pay part-time officers on an hourly basis and they would go under the ‘Obamacare’ limit of 29 hours (to be considered full time).”

What that looks like is four full-time officers who are still under the 75/25 plan with nine part-time officers who provide “full-time coverage for our middle schools, high schools and Mountain Creek Academy, with half-time coverage for our elementary schools,” Tuck said.

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